May 02 2012

Five Questions to Guide a Shared Services Project

Interior’s Jackson offers advice on selecting IT functions to move to shared services.

Under the Office of Management and Budget’s Shared First initiative, agencies must move two commodity IT systems to a shared-services model by the end of 2012. It may sound simple, but Andrew Jackson, deputy assistant secretary for technology, information and business services at the Interior Department, cautions against viewing the mandate as a “check-the-box exercise.”

To help agencies determine the best applications or IT functions to start with, he recommends that officials take the time to fully answer the following questions:

  • Is it a common application? The best, most obvious fit for shared services are applications or functions that cut across departmental, agency or government operations, such as e-mail, telephone, office applications, network management and storage.
  • Are we ready to let go of some control with this? It’s easy for agencies to rationalize their need for control by insisting that it emanates from a unique mission requirement or a privacy or security concern, but in most cases, they find being in control of the system more comfortable. Jackson recommends that agencies take a hard look at the real reason they’re holding onto an application and also understand that they still have control of the performance of services.
  • How ready is the application to be hosted elsewhere? Proprietary applications or those written in legacy code are more challenging to replicate. IT officials should study applications they would like to migrate to determine whether they can be replicated to a cloud environment or shared data center without negatively impacting performance and accountability.
  • How well do we understand what our needs are? Agency officials should be able to translate their system requirements into a service-level agreement, performance metrics and measurable outcomes if the shared services or cloud environment is going to have a truly transformative impact.
  • What does the application currently cost? Achieving cost savings is a critical factor in embracing shared services, but it will be impossible to measure if you don’t have any before-migration numbers to compare to. Officials must either have cost figures at the ready or a realistic strategy to develop them before considering consolidation.